Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

On Systematic Theology: Recommended Reading

Dec 16, 2012

Systematic theology, as the name implies, is simply a systematised presentation of biblical theology. Theological themes and concepts are scattered throughout the Bible, so the systematic theologian simply seeks to take all this and present it in a more orderly and coherent fashion.

The Bible throughout for example has a lot to say about God, or Christ, or sin, or salvation. A systematic theology will seek to make orderly bundles or groupings of each of these subjects, so that an overall picture of the topic can be more easily accessed, assessed and addressed.

Thus these are very valuable theological tools and all Christians should have one or two of them. Now I happen to have dozens of them, and sometimes I am asked for my favourites. So let me here provide a listing of some of the better systematic theologies.

Of course they more or less reflect my own theological orientation, so they are almost all Protestant, and will generally reflect evangelical, Reformed or conservative points of view – not altogether, but for the most part. Some are older, while some are quite recent.

Most of them are of some value, and some are outstanding. But how one makes such a judgment of course will depend on various factors. If you are not conservative, evangelical, and so on, then you may not like most of these. If you are more Arminian in your theology, then obviously those systematics from a more Reformed background will not be your cup of tea.

Let me then offer some general remarks first. Many of the older systematic theologies are still of great value, and are well worth having. One thinks for example of Bavinck, Berkhof, Hodge, and Shedd, for example. Most are over a hundred years old, and all happen to reflect the Reformed point of view. At least one of these would be well worth owning.

As to more recent systematics, I still quite like those by Erickson and Grudem. Both have been updated and revised over the years, but both are still terrific volumes and well worth having in your library. Geisler, who is known as much for his work in apologetics and philosophy as theology, has produced a helpful recent 4-volume series.

I quite like Bloesch, Frame and Oden as well, coming as they do from various different theological perspectives. And if you want a dispensational approach, then of course you will go with Chafer. If you are looking for an Arminian/Methodist slant, then go with Miley. If you want a Pentecostal or Charismatic ST, go with Williams.

Let me also draw your attention to the various multi-volume series. The slightly older Contours of Christian Theology series is very good indeed. The newest and most detailed and thorough is the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series. With five volumes out so far, it is a first rate set. The single volume alone by Feinberg on the doctrine of God (No One Like Him, 2001) is excellent, and well worth wading through its 900 pages.

What I offer here is broken down into five parts, beginning with some general introductory works on theology and its importance.

General Works
Bloesch, Donald, A Theology of Word & Spirit: Authority and Method in Theology. IVP, 1992.
Clark, David, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Crossway Books, 2003.
Davis, John Jefferson, Theology Primer. Baker, 1981.
Erickson, Millard and James Heflin, Old Wine in New Wineskins: Doctrinal Preaching in a Changing World. Baker, 1997.
Green, Joel and Max Turner, eds., Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 2000.
Grenz, Stanley, Renewing the Center. Baker, 2000.
Grenz, Stanley and Roger Olson, Who Needs Theology? InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Hart, Trevor, Faith Thinking: The Dynamics of Christian Theology. InterVarsity Press, 1996.
McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd ed. Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
McGrath, Alister, Theology: The Basics. Blackwell Publishers, 2004.
McGrath, Alister, Understanding Doctrine. Hodder and Stoughton, 1990.
Vanhoozer, Kevin, First Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics. InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Systematic Theologies
Akin, Daniel, ed., A Theology for the Church. B&H, 2007.
Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. Baker, 2003-2008 (1895-1899).
Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1939.
Berkouwer, G.C., Studies in Dogmatics. 14 vols. Eerdmans, 1952-1976.
Bloesch, Donald, Christian Foundations. 7 vols. InterVarsity Press, 1992-2004.
Bray, Gerald, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology. Crossway, 2012.
Buswell, James, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan, 1963.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry, Systematic Theology. 8 vols. Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948.
Culver, Robert Duncan, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. Christian Focus, 2005.
Erickson, Millard, Systematic Theology. Baker, 1992.
Frame, John, A Theology of Lordship. 4 vols. Bethany House, 1987-2010.
Garrett, James, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical and Evangelical. Smithfield Press, 2001.
Geisler, Norman, Systematic Theology. 4 vols. Bethany House, 2002-2005.
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology. Zondervan, 1994.
Hodge, Charles, Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Eerdmans, 1975 [1871-1873].
Horton, Michael, The Christian Faith. Zondervan, 2011.
Horton, Stanley, ed., Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective. Logion Press, 1994.
Jenson, Robert, Systematic Theology. 2 vols. Oxford University Press, 1997-1999.
Kelly, Douglas, Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Mentor, 2008-.
Lewis, Gordon and Bruce Demarest, Integrative Theology. Zondervan, 1996 [1987-1984].
Migliore, Daniel, Faith Seeking Understanding, 2nd ed. Eerdmans, 2004 [1991].
Miley, John, Systematic Theology, 2 vols. Hendrickson 1989 [1892-1894].
Oden, Thomas, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. HarperCollins, 1987-1994.
Reymond, Robert, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. 2nd ed. Word, 1998.
Shedd, William G.T., Dogmatic Theology, 3 vols. Klock and Klock, 1979 [1889].
Strong, A.H., Systematic Theology. Fleming R. Revell, 1974 [1907].
Thiessen, Henry, Lectures in Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1974 [1949].
Williams, J. Rodman, Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. 3 vols. Zondervan, 1988-1992.

History of Theology
Berkhof, Louis, A History of Christian Doctrines. Baker, 1975 [1937].
Bromiley, Geoffrey, Historical Theology: An Introduction. T&T Clark, 2000.
Brown, Harold O.J., Heresies. Doubleday, 1984.
Cunliffe-Jones, Hubert, ed., A History of Christian Doctrine. T&T Clark, 1978.
Cunningham, William, Historical Theology. Banner of Truth, 1996.
Gonzalez, Justo, A History of Christian Thought. 3 vols. Abingdon, 1970-1975.
Hall, Christopher, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Hart, Trevor, ed., The Dictionary of Historical Theology. Eerdmans, 2000.
Hill, Jonathan, The History of Christian Thought. Lion, 2003.
Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Creeds. Longmans, Green and Co., 1950.
Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines. A&C Black, 1958.
McGrath, Alister, Historical Theology. Blackwell, 1998.
Olson, Roger, The Mosaic of Christian Belief. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Olson, Roger, The Story of Christian Theology. InterVarsity Press, 1999.
Orr, James, Progress of Dogma. Hodder and Stoughton, 1901.
Pelikan, Jaroslav, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. 5 vols. University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989.
Placher, William, A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.

Multivolume Series in Theology
Bray, Gerald, ed., Contours of Christian Theology. 8 vols. IVP, 1993-2002.
Feinberg, John, ed., Foundations of Evangelical Theology. 5 vols. so far. Crossway Books, 1997-.
Green, Michael, ed., I Believe in… 11 vols. Eerdmans, 1974-1982.
Tidball, Derek, The Bible Speaks Today: Bible Themes. The Message of… 12 vols. so far. IVP, 2000-.

Global Theology
Dyrness, William and Veli-Matti Karkkainen, eds, Global Dictionary of Theology. InterVarsity Press, 2008.
Ott, Craig and Harold Netland, eds., Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity. Baker Academic, 2006.
Schwarz, Hans, Theology in a Global Context. Eerdmans, 2005.
Tennent, Timothy, Theology in the Context of Global Christianity. Zondervan, 2007.

Happy reading, happy theologising, and happy studying.

[1230 words]

13 Responses to On Systematic Theology: Recommended Reading

  • Thank you.

    Julia Marks

  • I like Paul Enns,Moody Handbook of Theology Chicago: Moody, 1989. Note, this is not the heretic Peter Enns!

    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • “…Theology belongs in the pulpit, the school, the workplace, the family and everywhere. Society as a whole is weakened when theology is neglected. Without a systematic application of theology, too often people approach the Bible with a smorgasbord mentality, picking and choosing that which pleases them. This two-volume set addresses this subject in order to assist in the application of the Word of God to every area of life and thought. …”

    Phil Ellery

  • Bill,
    I assume by “Armenian” you mean “Arminian” i.e. those who build on the work of Jakob Arminius, and not the theological tradition preserved by the traditional church of Armenia.

    I have found an insightful approach to the Calvinst-Arminian theological controversy in J.I. Packer’s recently reprinted Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Nottingham: IVP, 2010.

    John Wigg

  • Thanks John

    Yes of course. Typos still happen you know. I have changed it now. Thanks again.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Confessional Lutherans are noticeably absent from your list, Bill. Admittedly we are short on contemporary systematic theologies, but the volumes of Francis Pieper (Concordia Publishing House) and Adolph Hoenecke (Northwestern Publishing House), though almost 100 years old. are still worthy of attention, particularly as a reference point for Reformed readers. The venerable Evangelical Anglican Gerald Bray has also recently had published a very accessible volume called ‘God Is Love’ which, while I disagree with some points, is on the whole a judicious and measured contribution to the genre, especially aimed at beginners in the field. In the area of Historical Theology, can I also recommend Bengt Hagglund’s ‘History of Theology’ from Concordia Publishing House, which is possibly the best one volume summary of the field.
    Mark Henderson

  • Thanks for the tips Mark. And I do mention Bray in my list of systematics.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill

    What’s Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology like?

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damien

    He of course is a Messianic Jew and the main push of this volume is a very strong dispensational premil position throughout.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill

    Have you read any of Rousas John Rushdoony’s works. Having just finished his three volume set ‘the Institutes of Biblical Law’ I would very highly recommend it, so much to the point where having finished it I am starting over and reading it again
    its available at

    Hans Madsen

  • Thanks Hans

    Yes I have. However I only have eleven of his volumes.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Oh No! Another of Bill’s Budget-Busting Lists. Actually, this one is not so bad for me because I already have a fair number of the books listed. Humor aside, I find your lists to be quite helpful.

    I don’t know if it quite fits within this list, but I am currently reading in G. K. Beale’s “A New Testament Biblical Theology”, which I find to be very good.

    Thanks, and keep those lists coming.

    Randolph Constantine

  • Thanks Randolph

    Hey, don’t get me started; I could easily do my next list on biblical theology!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

Leave a Reply